Saturday 17 January 2015


One of the Christmas traditions we are attempting to establish is having the grandkids over to make Gingerbread houses. We have done so for the past two years and so far, so good. The kids are pretty small and it’s really just an excuse to eat large amounts of candy with Aunt Maegan, but all traditions have to start somewhere.

I was a Venturer leader for a short time and I tried to pass on some life lessons to the crew. They were teenagers and I doubt they actually listened to me at all, but I kept talking anyways. One thing I tried to stress was that everything that they do in life that is just a little out of the norm will set them apart and contributes to them being much more interesting humans. If they climb a mountain, even an easy climb they will be part of a smallish select group of people to have ever seen that particular sight. If they learn to play the guitar, they will be someone that climbed a mountain who plays guitar. If they spend a vacation in a youth hostel they will be able to sing a song while playing a guitar to the other residents about climbing a mountain. You get the idea.

 It is in the spirit of turning Hurricane, Tornado and Tsunami into interesting humans that we build those gingerbread houses. Well, that and we get to eat a lot of candy. Most of their turning into exceptional humans will be due to their moms and dads, but perhaps Louise and I will have some small impact. Small impacts are my specialty. I am constantly imploring the grandkids not to tell their mom and dad how they got that cut under the eye or the large bump on the back of their head. It isn’t my job to be the health and safety inspector. When the boys are invited to a party and they know how to whip up a batch of royal icing they will have to fight the girls off. Well, unless there are football players or guitarists or anyone with a motorcycle at the party as well.

So, the tradition is that at our Christmas dinner, after the table is cleared and before desert, they boys get to demolish the gingerbread house. They make very short work of it and there is gingerbread and candies all over. I should mention that they took their personal house (made of graham crackers) that they decorated, home with them. The big house that gets destroyed is decorated by Louise mostly, with some help (advice) from me. Since there are more people than kids who all want to get busy decorating, I usually make four or five graham cracker houses which also get decorated. No one wants these houses, so they sit in some out of the way place until about two weeks past Christmas when we have run out of easy to eat candy.

Louise and I will be walking by and pull off a gumdrop here and a chocolate wafer there. Some red liquorice or a jelly bean just seems to hit the spot as I’m walking back into the living room with a cup of tea. It occurred to me that Louise and I aren’t that much different than Hansel and Gretel from the fairy tale. No, the house isn’t in the woods and we hadn’t been abandoned by our father. I have no need to be fattened up, but it is a house made of candy and we are eating it.
Every time I look at it I wonder if some tiny witch will come out and make idle threats if we keep eating her home. Do you think that the brothers Grimm had the same tradition? Maybe they would pick at the candy from the house and their mom (or wives) would threaten them with some kind of dire consequence if they continued. I’d like to think that I have something in common with a pair of candy thieves from the early eighteen hundreds.

One thing is sure, after taking the choicest candies for the past two weeks, the pickings are getting pretty Grimm.

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